Automobile accidents will become rarer as self-driving vehicles take to the highways in the coming decade. Earlier this year, researchers at Virginia Tech reported that self-driving cars are already safer—they crashed 3.2 times per every million miles traveled versus 4.2 crashes per million miles traveled by conventional automobiles. Nevertheless, insurance companies have been reluctant to cover driverless vehicles so far. Does liability accrue to the owner, the manufacturer, the software supplier, etc.? The British insurance company Adrian Flux has just jumped in and is now ordering policies to cover driverless vehicles. As the press release from the company explained:
The new driverless policy has additional features over a standard car insurance policy. Customers will be covered for loss or damage in the following scenarios:
- If updates or security patches for things like firewalls, operating systems, electronic mapping and journey planning systems haven't been successfully installed in the vehicle within 24 hours of the owner being notified by the manufacturer or software provider, subject to an increased policy excess
- If there are satellite failure / outages that affect the navigation systems, or if the manufacturer's operating system or authorised software fails
- Where there is loss or damage caused by failing, when able, to use manual override to avoid a collision or accident in the event of operating system, navigation system or mechanical failure.
- For loss or damage if your car gets hacked or an attempted hack results in loss or damage.
The company evidently expects cars equipped with self-driving features to be involved in fewer accidents, so insurance rates will be correspondingly lower. Perhaps some American insurers will now be encouraged go into this line of business.
If you were a subscriber to the magazine, you'd already have been reading my cover article, "Will Politicians Block Our Driverless Future?" Just saying.